Do you spend a LOT of time searching for information? I do. Especially for work, when I need to choose amongst applications, courses, compare competitors, etc. I can spend hours trying to make my way through the clutter and find the piece of data that is relevant to me. I wish sometimes there were a clone of me, ahead of me in time, who has already done all the research I need to do and who could send me the information I need.
But there is no such thing, so I keep digging:-) And since you’ve been around so long (I’m deeply thankful), I will share some of my findings on apps and software, and hopefully, you will find them helpful. These are not affiliate links. I use some of them for my work, some for my clients and others, I’ve seen being used successfully in companies. Some of the links are more suitable for beginners in a business journey, and some are ideal for already running or scaling businesses. All of them are great when you are growing your business. Depending on you processes, pick up the right one. You will find recommendations at the end:-)
So, let’s dive in (in no particular order).
Calendly – use it to schedule, overview and follow up on appointments. Integrates will most video conferencing platforms, connects to your calendar and even processes payment. By the way, you have to open accounts with Stripe and PayPal. You need those to get paid. I use it.
HubSpot – Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a powerful tool that any growing business needs. It helps to organize and manage customer data relationships in one place. HubSpot is one of the most user-friendly platforms, and their CRM is…. Free to start. My clients use it.
MeetEdgar, Hootsuite and Buffer – are only three of the best platforms to plan and schedule social media posting. Like it or not, IG, FB, Twitter and LinkedIn have become the channels to communicate, offer and sell out products and services. Especially in the B2C market. So, you need one of these to manage systematic development and posting.
Monday – as you grow your team, you need a workflow system. With Monday.com, you can plan, manage and track all types of work your newly appointed team has to do, even for the most complex projects and workflows, with ease. My clients and service providers use it. Therefore I use it too.
Flodesk – is an email marketing service provider built by creators. I use it – these emails you are receiving are created with Flodesk, and I find they have the most beautiful emailing templates. Also, its pricing is excellent. The same price, always, unlimited services.
Drip – is the perfect solution if you are looking for something more advanced. It allows you to run complex marketing campaigns. And the best part – all with zero coding skills required. It doesn’t matter if you are a solopreneur or have already run a scaled business; drip is the ECRM solution for you. Its competitively priced packages offer value for any size business. As I am growing my client base, I am considering using it.
Freshbooks – I find accounting one of the most tedious activities ever (accountants, please forgive me). But, hey, we all need to do it, whether on a personal or professional level. We mainly need to manage invoicing, recurring billing, accounting, tax payment (OMG) and even payroll. Freshbooks comes to the rescue. It is flexible, scalable and user friendly.
Shopify – planning to sell products online? Start with Shopify. It is an eCommerce platform that lets you start, grow, and manage a business. However, Shopify goes further: store owners can also sell in physical locations using their point-of-sale app and accompanying hardware. My clients use it.
Thinkific – is an all-in-one platform that allows you to create, market, and sell online courses. The platform makes it easy to share knowledge, grow an audience, and scale a business. With Thinkific, your students can feel confident that they are in a user-friendly space and get the best support. I use Thinkific for my online courses.
Zapier – I am pretty resourceful, but I am not a geek (at all). With so many apps and data I had to move back and forth, I found myself working long hours to proof check I won’t miss a client. When I discovered Zapier, I found a way to be more productive immediately. Zapier helps you automate repetitive tasks between two or more apps—no coding experience necessary. It is straightforward. You can connect to Google Sheets. Gmail, Slack, Mailchimp, Calendly, Asana… the list is endless.
Fishbowl Inventory – is an excellent software for manufacturing and warehouse management. It helps to automate many inventory management tasks. For example, you can scan a barcode to update inventory records when you buy, sell, or receive products. Key features include inventory control, material requirements planning (MRP), job shop floor control, work order management, manufacturer orders and bills of materials. My clients use it.
Slack – is a messaging app wish is excellent for growing businesses. It helps connect people and teams to exchange information. It is designed for group communication and discussion forums (called channels). Currently, it is owned by SalesForce. I use it to communicate with clients, especially when managing big-scope projects and larger teams.
Asana – is my prefered work management platform. Like Monday.com, it is designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work. It is perfect for project work and team management. You can track individual tasks, plan sprints, integrate with other tools like Slack, Dropbox, Instagantt, and Google Drive. I use it for my projects, like website development or service offering.
SalesForce – is THE CRM for small, medium & enterprise businesses. It helps improve customer service and generate insights as a business scales up. As a general trivia, SalesForce is one of the 50 most followed companies on LinkedIn. My bigger size clients use it.
Jira – no IT team could survive long term without Jira. It is an issue/ticket and project tracking software incredibly popular with software companies. It represents one of the most flexible agile project management solutions for every shape and size team. In addition, Jira promotes a pull workflow system.
Lucidchart – from a simple project chart to a complex mind map. The software has it all to create powerful visuals to represent and understand processes, information and dependencies. So say goodbye to using rigid software like Visio or using the wrong software Office for process mapping. Lucidchart is easy, fast and highly user friendly. It also comes as a Google Drive add-on and includes a free trial. I couldn’t do my job without it.
Tableau – is an interactive data visualization software company focused on data intelligence. It helps you gather all your relevant data, explore it, manage it, and discover and share insights (develop KPI’s) to make accurate decisions based on data. Tableau was also acquired by SalesForce and offers a CRM platform.
Sage – is an ERP (enterprise resource planning). It helps automate business processes and provides insights and internal controls. It creates a central database that collects inputs from accounting, manufacturing, supply chain management, sales, marketing and human resources (HR).
You might think: This is great, Boriana, but where do I start. Well, here are a few pieces of advice.
The just beginners in a business journey, I know you are totally focused on marketing. And you probably already have an email marketing platform in place and a social media planner. But please: don’t neglect your operations! Marketing and the front-end are crucial when starting a business, so are operations when you start getting customers onboard. You will be in trouble if your back-end processes don’t flow or respond to demand. The effort invested in that user interface, social media, mailing and funnels will be wasted. So, balance your investment and implement ASAP a scheduler, online payment, accounting service provider, and especially a CRM.
For middle-sized companies where processes start having a more considerable scope, and you already have management layers supervising teams, you need to scale up your software and incorporate new ones to accommodate increasing demand, workload and logistics. Focus on expanding your CRM modules, including an ERP system and issue tracking and project management software. Moreover, unless you want to lose perspective on the market and get buried in KPI’s reports, you need to develop a centralised Datalake where all relevant data finds its way.